Remember the Occupy movement? You, know, that 2011 protest wherein a group of people held a sit-in for a number of days to remind the world that people who earn less than $500,000 a year existed? Or what about Black Lives Matter? That was pretty popular for a couple of years. March For Our Lives? The protest against the gun lobby? Or what about the Tea Party? Remember that movement of Conservatives and Libertarians to fight for a smaller federal government and a reduction of the national debt? What ever happened to these movements? You hardly hear about them anymore. Well, the truth is that they all faded over time. That’s what happens with fads. You are able to catch lightning in a bottle, exploit it for a time, and eventually the novelty fades. The truth is that all of these “movements” still exist. They have founders, heads, and websites, and still are involved in activism - albeit not necessarily the activism with which they started. But by and large, these movements go by the way of the fidget spinner – the interest decreases over time.
Then there’s the #MeToo movement. This was the one that I thought had lasting power. And the reason was plain and simple: bipartisanship. In the beginning of #MeToo, we saw the takedown or attempted takedown of many elite individuals regardless of which side of the aisle they happened to find themselves. Roger Ailes of Fox News, members of Congress John Conyers and Katie Hill, and celebrities such as Kevin Spacey and Bill Cosby all paid for their past sins due in no small part to the rise of the #MeToo Movement. Some would say that #MeToo went too far. Senator Al Franken was forced to resign based on a photo. Comedian Aziz Ansari was chastised for not reading body language despite the actual language that was used during an incident. And of course, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was argued to be unfit for office based on an uncorroborated accusation from an alleged 30-year-old incident.
The point was that everyone – politicians, athletes, musicians, actors, business tycoons, media personalities – was now on notice. No longer would the world put up with the harassment of women in the workplace. No longer would unwanted advancements be tolerated regardless of the status of the harasser. No longer should victims be afraid to come forward to tell their story because they weren’t the only ones who have experienced this. There are so many others who were victimized like you were, and when you come forward, you will be believed. Until you aren’t.
Enter Tara Reade. Reade has accused the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, of misconduct while she was working for the then-Senator back in the early 1990s. Now let’s be fair. There is no evidence to suggest that this actually happened. There were obviously no witnesses, as unfortunately these cases tend to lack as a part of their nature. In this country, we do have due process. There hasn’t been a criminal nor civil case brought against Biden. There isn’t really anything to discuss. But the same could have been said for Brett Kavanaugh, and his accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. In fact, we have much more from Reade than we ever had from Ford. Reade has friends and family at least corroborating that she told them about the incident when it happened. Reade’s mother called into Larry King’s television show to tell him about it without using names. Nobody who Dr. Ford named as possible allies ever corroborated either being at the party, or that she told them about it at the time of the incident.
We could go on for a long time comparing what did or did not happen in the two cases, but there is an even bigger issue here - one that basically spells the end of the #MeToo movement - and that is the obvious difference in the ways the media as well as Biden’s allies have covered this issue. Let’s start with the plethora of senators who were extolling the sins of Kavanaugh just a year and a half ago, who are now lining up for a chance to be Biden’s running mate later this year, or even a cabinet position next year. Elizabeth Warren said that Biden’s response was “credible and convincing,” which is very similar to her claims that Dr. Ford’s testimony was “brave, compelling, and credible.” Of course, the most headline-worthy senator during the Kavanaugh hearings was Kamala Harris, who really went after Kavanaugh any chance she had during the testimony or in front of an audience. As of this writing, though, she has yet to actually weigh in on this case. I bring up these two senators specifically because in an interview with Megan Kelly last week, Reade said she brought this case to both senators’ presidential campaign, with neither one responding.
Next, there’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is making a mockery of herself with every syllable she utters. When it came to the Kavanaugh hearing, Pelosi was very clear on what needed to happen before a confirmation. “Failure to postpone this vote without due process and a thorough investigation into these serious and credible allegations would be a dereliction of Congress’ duty to demand zero tolerance of harassment and abuse.” One would then expect the Speaker to be calling for a similar investigation before allowing a man accused of misconduct to run for President of the United States. Hahahaha. No. When asked what she thought of the allegations against Biden, Pelosi responded that while she has sympathy for any woman who brings forth an allegation, “[she does] support Joe Biden. [She’s] satisfied with how he has responded.” No call for an investigation. No hearing. No trial. Just her opinion - and nothing else matters.
Now if that wasn’t enough to prove how much of a partisan issue #MeToo has become, we look to the founder of the #MeToo Movement, Tarana Burke and how she analyzed Kavanaugh against how she didn’t touch Biden. In an interview on MSNBC in 2018, Burke chastised Kavanaugh for bringing up his current position as a family man, father, and coach to his daughters, saying that those things “have nothing to do with who he was at 17 years old, drunk in a room with Dr. Blasey Ford.” True, but in her Twitter thread that responded to the allegations against Biden, she chose not to talk about Biden at all, focusing instead on Reade. She never said that who Biden is today as the presumptive nominee for the DNC has nothing to do with how he was as a senator in the 1990s. She even added that “the inconvenient truth is that this story is impacting us differently because it hits at the heart of one of the most important elections of our lifetime. And I hate to disappoint you but I don’t really have easy answers.” Oh, so this impacts you differently because it’s against the guy you want to win? There sure seemed to be easy answers when it was against a judicial nominee you didn’t want in the Supreme Court. There it was pretty cut-and-dry. But the most ironic part of her statement is when she stated, “Many of you are only interested in this story because you are entertained by the trauma of others or because it has the potential to be politically expedient - with no real regard for the survivor.” Yes, that is exactly right. The same way that nobody cared about Dr. Ford or Monica Lewinsky or Anita Hill. All people actually care about is how it will affect their opponent, or how it will affect their nominee.
And that’s the point. That has always been the point. The #MeToo movement was always about removing those you don’t like in favor of those you do. In one event, the #MeToo movement was outed as a partisan movement instead of what it was supposed to be. You see, when the Democratic representatives were removed, nobody was worried. John Conyers was from a Michigan district that hadn’t voted for a Republican since the 1940s. Al Franken’s replacement was to be chosen by the Minnesota Governor, a Democrat. No seat lost. Those in Hollywood and other positions of power are inconsequential in the long term. As soon as the #MeToo movement was given a choice with real consequences, it folded. Suddenly, we don’t automatically believe women anymore. There is no sympathy for survivors. Our guy has to win. Look at the alternative. Sorry, morals. So long, convictions.
There is a message for two types of arguments here. Firstly, for those on the other side who are pointing fingers at Biden and suggesting he actually is guilty of that which he is being accused: Can it. Due process is given to everyone. If you didn’t think there was enough to label Kavanaugh as an offender, there isn’t enough for Biden either. Secondly, for those who will say “but Trump has been accused too,” you are correct. He has been. But whataboutism is never a strong argument, especially for someone who is running a campaign as the guy who isn’t Trump.
This column started by explaining that the movements of the past didn’t have the lasting power that #MeToo did because it didn’t rely on a partisan talking point; rather it was about something we all could get behind. Well, now it has something the other movements didn’t have either. While the others faded slowly into the background, #MeToo has a defining ending point, and that’s now - when it chose to defend a powerful man who falls on the right side of the aisle instead of the woman who accused him. And with that, we bid adieu to the #MeToo movement.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.